On February 8th, 2017, members of the Newark Think Tank on Poverty shared their experiences with payday loans, title lenders, and rent-to-own businesses.
This event was coordinated and hosted by our friend and ally, Fahdel Kaboub, Associate Professor of Economics at Denison University. NTTP Members Ellanor, Donna, Chris, and Chuck were the speakers.
Below is a list of what I learned, taken from notes during the event, with links to articles if you are interested in learning more. If they bring you any wisdom, give a big thanks to the speakers for helping us understand these unethical but legal practices.
Here is what I learned
- Payday loans are ubiquitous in impoverished areas. There are more predatory lenders in the country than there are McDonald’s. They target low income populations and marginalized peoples. Approximately 650 payday lenders operate in Ohio.
- There are bonds people, rent-to-own businesses, payday and title lenders all over Newark. A Google search for the aforementioned institutions will find you a map directing you to a number of them. Fahdel did not have the exact number of these businesses in Newark, but said he expected his class to find the data.
- Once you are released from jail or prison, most likely without anything but the clothes on your back, you will be hit with bill and fine notices.
- One member’s experience with a rent-to-own establishment became a financial crisis around the holiday season. This member wanted to buy their son a PlayStation 4, which runs for less than $400 dollars at local retailers. But after paying interest and late fees, the video game console cost them roughly $2,000 dollars.
- A recurring topic in the speeches was the panic that comes during financial stress. Imagine your daughter’s car broke down, and you need to find a way to get it fixed so she can keep her job: the idea of getting a quick loan, one that seems small enough to cover within the one- to two-week time limit, sounds like the best idea. Then you have a heart attack shortly after getting the loan. Now you might have hospital bills to cover, and because you were recovering from a medical emergency, you missed your payment. Now that payday loan you made to get your daughter to and from work has gone from $200 to $600. You cannot make payments: cough up the $600.
- Another member got a title loan for $800 dollars. After working at a plant for a little more than a decade, they were laid off. They acquired a seasonal job at Harry and David, the only work available to them at the time. Again, they were laid off. Shortly after missing their payment, the lenders showed up to the door with a letter, and took off with the vehicle, still expecting them to cough up the $800 dollars, in addition to the storage and towing fees.
- Ohio Payday Coalition is petitioning to get H.B. 123 on the 2018 ballot, which plans to address the loopholes used by predatory lenders. The issue of predatory lending has circulated in the state government for years, but nothing has been done to pass legislation addressing these poverty-making practices.